Ride a local train in Mumbai and you can see the best and worst of living conditions in the city at one go. The spanking glass and concrete high rises contrast with the old crumbly Mumbai in a haphazard tapestry of modern shapes and makeshift rooftops. At least that’s what I was thinking on my way to the Yusuf Meherally Vidyalaya, a school run by a charitable trust by the same name. The much touted skyline of our city may show the face of a new India being rebuilt, but also has within its innards, the hunger, greed, lust and ambition of its slum dwellers, eager to cash in on its continuously rising real estate prices.
I was on a volunteering job for Yusuf Meherally Centre when I reached this sprawling school compound in the prime locality of Tardeo in South Mumbai. As I gathered from the secretary of the NGO, builders have eyed this property besides lobbying for its demolition. The school provides much-needed space for children from nearby slums to get away from their oppressive home life. Here, they receive free education besides a space to play and dream about a better life. The trustees of the school have successfully opposed moves made by builders with political connections. The school provisions such as computers, furniture etc are supported by donations made by corporates so far, but its far from enough.
I wouldn’t dare send my children here but it’s there for the very same reason: to nourish and engage the minds of kids. The worn out spaces in these images seem to hold the aspirations of many generations of underprivileged children in a timeless warp. They’re a reflection of what I understand as the parallel reality of Mumbai. I was drawn by the interiors and the silence of an otherwise noisy space on a day off for the school.
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